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Healthy Indoor Air for America's Homes
Lead Dust

Q: What is lead? What are the sources of lead?
A: Lead is a metallic element that is widely dispersed in the environment. It was used in house paint until 1978, when it was banned. It was also widely used in gasoline, but has since been removed. Near major traffic corridors, soils may be contaminated from the long-term use of leaded gas. Also, water is a potential source of lead. This is usually from lead in solder, fixtures and piping in the home. There is no lead in a "lead" pencil!

Q: Why should I be concerned about
A: Young children (up to about 6 years old) are especially at risk of ingesting lead contaminated dust or paint chips. Small amounts of lead dust, consumed regularly, can cause delayed development, reading and learning problems, lowered IQ, hyperactivity and discipline problems. Larger doses can cause high blood pressure, anemia, and kidney and reproductive disorders. Lead accumulates in the body and its effects are irreversible.

Q: How do I know if my children have been exposed to lead?
A: If you live in an older home, your children may be at high risk. All children up to age six should be tested for lead in their blood. Ask your public health department about lead testing programs for children.

Q: How do I know if my home has significant concentrations of lead?
A: An estimated 57 million U.S. homes have at least some lead paint. Older homes are at greater risk. Prior to 1950, paint contained as much as 50 percent lead. Paint in good condition poses little risk. Paint that is peeling or on deteriorating surfaces is especially risky. Dust created from remodeling an older home can also be a source of lead.

Do-it-yourself test kits are available at home centers, paint stores and ceramic supply stores. Their sensitivity is limited though. Also, it may be difficult to get accurate readings on surfaces with multiple levels of paint. For more accurate information, have a professional detection service conduct a lead-based paint risk assessment.

Q: Should I be concerned if my home has
A: Yes, especially if you live in a house built prior to 1978 that has not been determined to be lead free by a certified professional, and if you have young children in your home. But, it's important to distinguish between the presence of lead paint and a lead paint hazard. Lead paint in good condition may not pose a hazard until sometime in the future-say, if you plan to scrape the paint or remodel. Then paint dust will pose a hazard.

Q: If lead is detected in my home, what should I do?
A: If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family's risk:

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